Casual Encounters: Revisiting Dragon’s Maze

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Hi everyone and I am very happy to be back.  I had a very busy summer and my writing had to be put on hold.  Even now I’m not sure how much writing I will be able to put together, but I dearly want to get back into the habit so I’m going to start this evening and see where this leads in the next few weeks.

The consensus from the MTG community is that Dragon’s Maze was essentially hot garbage.  I tend to agree with them because most of the set was borderline unplayable in standard.  Even fewer cards had any impact in anything else constructed (apart from Voice of Resurgence) and was mostly left to waste away in boxes of bulk that will never see the light of day.

However, I have recently gone back and started to revisit the set because it is actually Commander gold. There are loads of sleeper EDH picks that are well worth spending the few nickels it takes to pick them up.  Today I’m going to go through and highlight some of the cards that you might have overlooked and that make this set well worth going back and visiting again.

melek

Melek, Izzet Paragon: The Izzet get lots of fun commanders but since Commander 2015 Mizzix has been one of the most popular.  However, Melek just has too much text to ignore and since it costs a mere $0.49 at Three Kings Loot you just can’t go wrong.

Mirko

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker: Another really good commander that seems to overshadowed by Phenax, but any time you can grind away until the hit 4 land cards you are going to quickly eat through any deck.

Ruric

Ruric Thar, the Unbowed: This is a wild card to wreck most games because this cannot be left unchecked.  There is just so much potential for damage with this that it can stifle the game. Oh, and he’s $0.60 so you can’t possibly go wrong.

Putrefy

Putrefy: flexible single target removal.

Pilfered Plans

Pilfered Plans: An improved version of Divination for the dedicated Mill Deck as it digs for answers.

Mimic

Progenitor Mimic: Is just nuts. Copies of Everything. My play group calls it the photocopier.

Notion Thief

Notion Thief:  This sounds like fun to mess with everyone at the table! Let’s draw ALL the cards!

Trostani's summoner

Trostani’s Summoner:  In a Green/White token deck this makes 10 points of power across 4 bodies and is a house.

Advent of the wurm

Advent of the Wurm: Instant speed 5/5? Yes please.

Lavinia

However, for me the best card that never gets any talk is Lavinia of the Tenth.  There are a mere 143 decks listed on EDHREC making Lavinia super underplayed and her impact on the game is ridiculous.  Whenever you cast her she essentially detains the whole board.  Yes, I know she only says “nonland permanents with converted mana cost of 4 or less” so it isn’t everything, but it does a damn good job of getting most things.  Lavinia is interesting because she detains ALL nonland permanents, not just creatures like many of the other Azorius creatures.  Next time you play, stop and look and see how many thing on the board get detained by her ability and you will be gobsmacked.  Her 4/4 stats are decent too, and the random Protection from Red doesn’t hurt either.  However, any deck playing Lavinia wants to play a control sort of game and she can single handedly slow down the whole board freeing you up to attack or to improve your board state.

I know that I have talked about Lavinia before on here, but I seem to keep lending her out to friends who want to play something different and I keep finding myself losing to my own U/W control deck. Lavinia just shuts us all down, the board gets wiped, the resource battle is pretty lopsided and the enormous pile of counterspells means that we are at the mercy of the deck. On the whole, she is a perfect commander for a U/W control deck and should probably get played more often.

That’s all I’ve got for tonight.  I might post the Lavinia list I’ve been running, but I’m worn out tonight and need to call it quits.  Thanks guys and have good evening.

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

 

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MTG Thought of the Day- Budget Modern G/W Humans

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As much as I love to play EDH, I do still dabble in Modern from time to time.  Amonkhet gave me a great chance to open up a deck I was fooling around with and to breath new life into it. Glory-Bound Initiate seemed like the sort of card that was just screaming to be abused and what better way to put him to good use other than to put some +1/+1 counters on it and to go to town?  Let’s start with the decklist and then talk briefly about what it can do.

Modern- G/W Humans

24 Creatures:

3 Champion of the Parish

4 Thalia’s Lieutenant

3 Glory-Bound Initiate

3 Phalanx Leader

4 Avatar of the Resolute

4 Fiend Hunter

2 Bygone Bishop

2 Abzan Falconer

 

13 Spells:

2 Brave the Elements

4 God’s Willing

3 Travel Preparations

4 Lead by Example

 

22 Lands:

9 Forest

9 Plains

4 Canopy Vista

 

This deck is super linear and the game plan is simple.  You want to play creatures and then find a way to get +1/+1 counters on them as quickly as you can to close out the game.  Champion of the Parish is the perfect 1 Drop , but Thalia’s Lieutenant plays a nice complement.  Phalanx Leader produces all sorts of counters and Glory-Bound Initiate reaps the benefits and crushes for major damage and life gain.  The Lifelink is very crucial because this deck wants to race the other deck and one big hit from an Initiate probably puts you in the driver seat to out race your opponent.  At the 3 drop spot Bygone Bishop is a versatile little flier than generates card advantage because it triggers off every creature in the deck.   The secret tech is Avatar of the Resolute because in a deck like this it can easily be a 5/4 or a 6/5 for 2 mana . That can tussle pretty well, provided you can hold the fort long enough to get it out with any sort of counters on it. It is clearly  a high Risk/ High Reward sort of creature that I think is a fun inclusion.

The spells are pretty straight forward for a White Weenie deck. They are mainly pump spells like Travel Preparations and Lead By Example, and protection spells like God’s Willing and Brave the Elements.  Many of the spells allow you to put +1/+1 counters directly on your creature, but also can target the Phalanx Leader and fire extra +1/+1 counters on your team.

Now, this is a very budget version of this sort of deck with Champion of the Parish being the most expensive card at roughly $2.  There is plenty of room to up the power level and the cost of the deck so feel free to tinker with it.  For me, this is all the Modern deck I need.  Whenever I sit down with my friends and they want to play Modern I can reach for this knowing that I will probably lose, but if things break just right I can eek out a victory.  The deck is super budget friendly, surprisingly fun, and capable of some explosive starts that have left a few of my friends shaking their heads.

Thanks for stopping in to read and have a great start to your weekend!

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

 

 

 

 

Shu Yun, The Silent Tempest/Energy EDH deck

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Hi Guys,

I’ve been pushing an Energy related theme in many of previous posts, particularly as they pertain to Decoction Module and Fabrication Module. I maintain these two artifacts are versatile enough to warrant being played in any deck that has even a few Energy syncs.  To highlight this I wanted to share my Jeskai coloured Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest EDH deck that has a strong Energy sub theme that adds a added level of complexity to the deck, but increases the relative threat density significantly.

 

SHU Yun, The Silent Tempest

 

Abbot of Keral Keep

Nivix  Guildmage

Thrummingbird

Bygone Bishop

Mantis Rider

Chasm Skulker

Fiend Hunter

Aethertouch Renegade

Whirler Virtuoso

Banisher Priest

Desolation Giant

High Sentinels of Arashin

Quicksmith Spy

Archaeomancer

Thunderbreak Regent

Aetherstorm Roc

Cataclysmic Gearhulk

Goblin Dark Dwellers

Elite Scaleguard

Mulldrifter

Deadeye Navigator

Aethertide Whale

Combustible Gearhulk

Diluvian Primordial

 

Planeswalker:

Ajani, Caller of the Pride

 

SORCERY:

 

Part the Waterveil

Slip Through Space

Ghostform

Devils Play

Treasure  Cruise

End Hostilities

Planar Outburst

Mystic Retrieval

Fumigation

Vandalblast

Saheeli’s Artistry

 

Instant:

Counterspell

Rootborn Defenses

Uncaged Fury

Jeskai Charm

Insidious Will

Dig Through Time

Foil

Izzet Charm

Temur Battle Rage

Fact or Fiction

Glimmer of Genius

Reality Shift

Brutal Expulsion

Steam Augury

Fork

Flying Crane Technique

Swords to Plowshares

 

Enchantment

Citadel Siege

Thopter Spy Network

Banishing Light

Outpost Siege

Era of Innovative

Metallurgical Summonings

 

Artifacts

Dynavolt Tower

Decoction Module

Key to the City

Whispersilk Cloak

Cultivator’s Caravan

Animation Module

Fabrication Module

Tamiyo’s Journal

 

Land

Skyline  Cascade

Adarkar  Wastes

Evolving Wilds

Inventors’ Fair

Mage Ring Network

Wind-Scarred  Crag

Port Town

Temple of Enlightenment

Mystic Monastery

Glacial Fortress

Izzet  Guildgate

Swiftwater Cliffs

Temple of Triumph

Mirrorpool

Azorius  Guildgate

Aether Hub

Needle Spires

Meandering River

Prairie Stream

Tranquil Cove

Shivan Reef

Wandering Fumarole

5 plains

4 mountain

4 islands

 

The deck plays exactly like you think a Shu Yun deck would, play a bunch of spells, trigger Shu Yun’s Double strike ability and end someone by going all in and wrecking them .  However, the Energy angle is fairly obvious and your opponent is wondering where the payoff is…until you resolve the pay off.  The look on my opponents faces while my Energy count ticked up to 15 through artifacts just passively doing their thing, and then an Aethertouch Renegade was the first Energy sync off the top of the deck and the resulting burnination was more than my opponent really had in mind.  Between the massive amount of card advantage this deck can manufacture, ridiculous amounts of Energy, and the fact that on any turn Shu Yun can essentially combo-kill someone this deck is fun, budget friendly, and surprisingly resilient.

Thanks very much guys…and have fun.

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

Casual Encounters- Hidden Gems Hiding in Plain Sight

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I take great pleasure in using cards from all sorts of sets that have a rather innocuous ability, but once they get into play can have a very large impact on the game.  I call this “mining for hidden gems”.  However, since I have made a conscious effort to use rather recent sets to help in my deck construction, they are often cards that were always right there, available to be used, but have avoided widespread detection.  These are my “Hidden Gems Hiding in Plain Sight”.  I’ve got a number of these cards from recent sets that I wanted to highlight today for you and hopefully encourage you to go digging and experimenting with some Hidden Gems.

Decoction Module and Fabrication Module– These two very simple artifacts are excellent examples of Hidden Gems.  I have heard very few people jump at the opportunity to include these two little cards in their decks, but they are surprisingly strong additions.  The easiest way to describe these two artifacts is that they have an open ended synergy that can fit with any deck, but when you have an Energy payoff or two in your deck they get much better.  Let’s look at these two.

Fabrication Module is a 3 mana artifact that says when you get and Energy, you can put a +1/+1 counter on target creature you control.  That’s easy enough and there are lots of decks that love +1/+1 counters.  The secondary ability is tap 4 generic mana and tap Fabrication Module and get an Energy, and make a +1/+1 counter because you just got an energy.  If you are playing a deck that is interested in making counters, this is ideal.  It can be used at will to add +1/+1 counters whenever you need one and with things like Doubling Season, Winding Constrictor etc, can easily be triggered and get you to the point where you can build up those counters pretty easily.

Decoction Module  says that whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control you get and Energy.  The secondary ability allows you to spend 4 generic mana and tap Decoction Module and return target creature to your hand.  So, the ability to return a creature to your hand could be super valuable as a combat trick or a way to save your most valuable creature.  This is just a versatile ability that could allow you to get some extra value, to blank a removal spell, or generally be used to your advantage as you need it.  The incidental energy gained is nice, but is not the primary reason you play this artifact.

Now, let’s move forward to the scenario where you put BOTH of these artifacts in your deck.  You play a creature, Decoction Module gives you an Energy, Fabrication Module triggers and you get an +1/+1 counter and still have the option to use the secondary abilities on either one as needed.  This is just nice value.  Sure, in your Commander deck it could be tricky to assemble the pair, but so long as your deck wants the ability created by either one independently you are perfectly comfortable with running them.  In those games where you get them BOTH, well, you’re going to enjoy them twice as much.

However, while these cards are cute, they are hardly game breaking (unless you really are intent on breaking them) but we haven’t discussed what to do with some of that Energy you’ve picked up.  Kaladesh had a number of really interesting Energy Syncs that you could run without much issue.  On the whole, the Energy mechanic is a little problematic because it does only appear in Kaladesh block, but you don’t need very many options to make this a viable element of your deck.  A few of the obvious payoffs include Dynavolt Tower and Aetherworks Marvel. However, some less well known places to dump your Energy include Aetherstorm Roc,  Multiform Wanderer, or Shielded Aetherthief, or the always popular Whirler Virtuoso.  It doesn’t take much in order for these cards to be a really strong Energy sync.

I will need to post my Jeskai Energy EDH deck list to give you guys a better perspective of how I use all the Energy produced, but the Gems that make the whole thing possible are those two dinky little artifacts that are forgotten more often than not.

Thanks for stopping by and reading!

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

 

 

 

 

Casual Encounters- Changing With the Times

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Hi everyone.  I seem to keep coming back on this blog and apologizing for lengthy absences.  Finding that balance between, family, work, and hobbies is just not easy and I find that I never get around to writing.

So, I have decided that instead of trying to produce larger and lengthier articles about certain topics that I would instead use this blog for shorter posts that will touch on a few things.  I will certainly take an EDH/Casual focus, as I always have, but I will try to highlight perhaps obscure or underplayed cards, fun interactions, interesting variants on the game, or half baked MTG finance ideas that I am hoping will save me (and you) some money.    I will still periodically post more in depth about some aspects and to provide some up to date lists of some of my favorite Commander decks, but the focus will be on shorter MTG thoughts. Thanks, and back to the good stuff!

MTG  Thought- Cards you Ought to be playing:

This week I am going to be highlighting a couple of obscure cards I’ve recently picked up that might be of interest to you, under the right circumstances. Now, I love looking through old binders of bulk jank and I recently had a chance to scope out the bulk rare binder at my local LGS and found these two gems.

On a recent episode of The Command Zone with Jimmy Wong and Josh Lee Kwai, they clearly articulated why keeping your mana curve in consideration was important (episode #156) and I really took this to heart.  It makes good sense to have plays in the early stages of the game and to efficiently use your mana.  I have heard the theory espoused saying that the person who uses the most mana over the course of the game should win more often.  This seems like a self evident series of statements, but they get overlooked in the excitement of building a fun brew where you load up on top heavy bombs and wondering why you were never really in the game.   When I found these two guys my brain immediately jumped to that episode of The Command Zone.  These creatures just scream flexible creature that scales in the late game and I knew I had to scoop them up.

Let’s start with Anavolver, because and its core it is a 3/3 for 4 mana.  These are the same stats as a Hill Giant and are hardly scary.  However, let’s be real, if you NEED a four drop, well, you got one.  However, when you have plenty of mana you aren’t just dropping a 3/3 for 4 mana because with the Kicker ability on this you can easily turn this into a 6/6 flying and regenerating beast for 7 mana.  The fact that this can scale like that and be a relevant card in the early stages of the game and the late stages of the game is very appealing.

Necravolver is super relevant for all the same reasons, but even has some added synergy because of its color identity.  Abzan colors already want to make use of +1/+1 counters and this acquires them just by being kicked.  Can you imagine Necravolver picking up a number of additional counters thanks to Daghatar, Anafenza, or any other source of counters?  This turns into a huge, trampling, lifelinking behemoth that MUST be answered in the late stages of the game, or could be a 2/2 for 3 mana in the early parts of the game and hold off your opponent.

As a guy who has actively built a Commander deck for all 5 wedges, discovering these old rare cards from Apocalypse from 2001 was a real boon.  I know the color identity can be limiting and most players won’t build a three (or more) color deck, but at least being aware of these sorts of cards will pay dividends should you ever decide to undertake such a project.

scribeofthemindful

The final card I am excited about is a much more recent card and for less exotic.  Scribe of the Mindful is one of my newest favorites because it does exactly what I want from a relatively poor creature.  Many of my Commander decks are looking to recur certain spells (or, maybe just Villainous Wealth ) and this is just one more inexpensive way to recur a spell.  Block, sacrifice it, and get back that spell you always wanted seems like a perfectly reasonable play pattern and something I feel like I’ll be  doing plenty.  It is no Mnemonic Wall, but is plays well enough that I have a number of decks yearning for some of these little guys.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for stopping by and here’s hoping that with more regular, shorter pieces I can share my thoughts with you all more often. Thanks for stopping by!

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

 

 

Casual Encounters- Top 10 Casual Cards from Amonkhet

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Welcome back folks.  I realize I’ve been away for a bit, but sometimes work and family get in the way of playing Magic .  However, I’m back and excited for Amonkhet.  By the time this gets posted many of you will have already played at your pre-release and had a first taste of the cards.  Competitive players of all stripes will be looking to brew up that next great deck, or to dismantle existing ones with some new tech.  However, for those of us who play more casually our targets might be slightly different.  We might get excited over some slightly different cards. Today I’m going to go through the top 10 cards for Casual play.  Now, that might be similar in some respects to players with a more competitive bent, but I bet some of these cards might have been overlooked to some degree and I’m happy to shine a light on them too.  So, with no further adieu, let’s get down to business.

Honorable Mention: Samut, Hapatra, Temmet and Neheb

This is not quite a cycle, but I’ve lumped these together as a series of Gold, Legendary creatures that will undoubtedly be featured as a Commander in EDH decks very soon.  They all have their merits and offer very unique abilities depending on what sort of EDH deck you are looking to construct.  My personal favorite is Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons, but they are all fascinating cards and will open up significant deck development space in EDH for some neat new decks.

10- Vizier of the Menagerie:  Just the raw stats on this card aren’t bad and at least got my attention.  A 3/4 for 4 mana is a pretty reasonable rate and you wouldn’t be ashamed to sleeve it up and play it in most decks. However this card has a whole pile of text on it and it is all relevant text to most players.  The first two clauses read a little like Oracle of Mul Daya, and the mana fixing produced is fascinating and likely really important.  Now, it ISN’T Oracle of Mul Daya, but just because it isn’t the same doesn’t mean it isn’t good.  I think this will see plenty of play in decks playing Green, particularly tri-coloured or four colour decks looking to enable mana fixing.  I kind of have a suspicion that this was supposed to be in the recently released Commander 2017 product but they didn’t want to put it in every deck, so they slid it into Amonkhet  and let everyone have access to it.  Regardless, I think this is a very solid card and will see plenty of play soon enough.

Harvest Season

9- Harvest Season: This is just a ridiculous ramp spell that will just allow you to go nuts.  If you can tap down your creatures without attacking, and there are plenty of ways, this could easily ramp you 3-5 land cards with no difficulty, and that is a conservative estimate.  Mana dorks, utility creatures, Vehicles, Convoke, Improvise, there are SO many ways to enable this that it seems almost criminal. The sort of raw ability to ramp on this card is super important in EDH and other Casual formats where you are casting massive spells early and often.  The sooner you get there, the better it will be for you and your deck meaning that virtually any Green deck will be running this.  Let the good times roll.

8- The Gods:  I am going to lump all these guys together not because they are all the same power level, but rather because to NOT mention them would be a disservice.  There is no doubt that they are all powerful cards, but some are better than others. Rhonas looks like a home run while Bontu and Oketra have their appeal.  Hazoret is interesting too, but my personal play style would have me shy away from being Hellbent in a Casual game because I like having a full grip of cards.  Kefnet seems like the weakest of the bunch because I question how easily he will be to turn on and make active but a 5/5 with flying and indestructible is still real. They are all very powerful and can’t be overlooked regardless if some are stronger than others.  If I open one of these guys up at my pre-release I will totally try it out and maybe I will be surprised.  Regardless, they make the list and can’t be discounted.

Drake Haven

7- Drake Haven:  This just looks like a ridiculous value engine that someone is going to put in some Cycling/Discard heavy deck, partner it with Talrand, Sky Summoner and Drake you to death.  In the past I have liked these sorts of cards when they come in the shape of Goblinslide, but for some reason I am less excited about this one.  Maybe it is because I know I can’t deal with the Airforce very well and will die to the card. Lots.  Regardless of whether or not I like the card, I can’t deny the potential of this card to do some nutty things and that’s why it is on this list.

Pyramid of the PantheonGilded Lotus

6- Pyramid of the Pantheon– I have heard very little hype about this card, but I am very excited for this artifact.  This is deceivingly powerful even with the drawback.  A one mana artifact that you can use to fix your mana in the early stages of the game is not ideal when you are overpaying for the fixing, but still useful and will play a key role to get your game plan rolling .  However, the moment you get three Brick Counters on this it turns into a Gilded Lotus and ramps you like crazy.  EVERY deck will want one of these and since it is an artifact it will GO in every deck.  I will likely be trying to grab a whole pile of these because it seems like it is too good to be true.

Lord of the Accursed

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Casual Encounters- Why I want Hero’s Downfall Back so Much

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Welcome back to Casual Encounters, my little corner of the internet where I can post what is going on inside my head with respect to Magic: the Gathering.  We have heard a great deal in the last little while about how Wizards has pushed card types and haven’t really provided us with answers to keep pace.  The best example of this recently has been the advent of Vehicles which required a banning for Smuggler’s Copter.  While Copter was banned, there are still plenty of other very good vehicles floating around and it is really hard to interact with them profitably.  However, Wizards has continued to push other card types and to make scarier and scarier weapons to crush your opponent.  I’m fine with them pushing card types, but they need to give us reasonable options with which to combat them and that’s why they need to reprint Hero’s Downfall.

Why do we need answers?

It has been pretty well documented that Vehicles has been a nightmare for Wizards.  Copter needed to be banned.  Heart of Kiran and Mardu vehicles is the most popular (and successful) deck in Standard currently.  They are colourless, go in everything, and usually the crew cost is a reasonable cost for what you are going to do.  Even in Limited Renegade Freighter and Untethered Express, affectionately called “Pain Trains”, are devastating.  But perhaps the most challenging part is asking yourself “how do I DEAL with these things?”.  It isn’t obvious, they are tricky to interact with, and generally hard to cope with.  The trick is that Wizards has increasingly moved to having targeted removal as Sorceries like Prey Upon and Ruinous Path, or being very expensive like Tidy Conclusion or Anguished Unmaking.  None of these are really good methods for dealing with vehicles because vehicles dodge sorcery speed removal and expensive removal usually means you take your whole turn off (or get punished in another way)  by having to kill the darn thing.  Yes, we do get a few good answers like Fatal Push, Grasp of Darkness and a few other odds and ends, but these are as good as gold in Magic these days.

However, it is more than just Vehicles that are causing a problem.  Planeswalkers are exceedingly difficult to deal with and we just don’t have a lot of tools to address these powerful cards. I can think of only a few cards ever printed that have the text “Destroy Target Planeswalker” and currently in Standard you only have Ruinous Path and To the Slaughter.  With Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Liliana the Last Hope, and NOW Gideon of the Trials we are seeing some serious souped up walkers and have very few ways to actually deal with them short of smashing them or catching them with a burn spell. There just aren’t a lot of good tools. The fact alone that Gideon of the Trials means that if you can’t remove the Gideon that you can’t beat your opponent is a huge issue and pretty big push for the card in a Standard environment that could conceivably see a deck play 8 Gideon Planeswalkers.  We just need some tools with which to handle these walkers.  There is a pretty easy card reprint that could be made to help take pressure off and to give players a fighting chance against these ultra powerful cards.

Gideon-of-the-Trials-Amonkhet-Spoiler

Why reprint Hero’s Downfall?

Heros-Downfall

People reflect on Hero’s Downfall and think back to its use in Standard.  During Theros/RTR standard Mono-Black Devotion was everywhere and a full playset of Hero’s Downfall was a prerequisite to playing the deck.  It was pretty standard play pattern to Thoughtseize on Turn 1, take turn 2 off, Turn 3 Hero’s Downfall their creature, and on four you land a bomb and quickly destroy your opponent.  So, the card got a bad wrap in a format that people claimed was a three deck format, but was it really all that bad?.

However, let’s try and look at the card a little more objectively.  The CMC on the card is 3 and includes double black mana meaning it is rigorous to try and cast it and probably on the slow end of things when it comes to Grade A removal.  Would this ever make a Modern Deck?  Unlikely because it is competing against so many powerful options in the format. It is absolutely not warping in any manner, nor is it likely to replace more efficient removal in Modern.

Moving on to Standard,  3 mana is hardly ridiculous in Standard, nor is it so expensive that decks are going to avoid it. You can tell me that we already have Ruinous Path, and that is true, but making it a sorcery instead of an Instant is pretty serious stuff.  The text on Hero’s Downfall allows you to kill Gideon, or to knock out that Vehicle at Instant speed and to have an honest answer to these powerful spells.  It offers good flexibility, is priced fairly, and is an impactful card to play at almost any stage of the game.  It doesn’t warp or wreck an existing format and by reprinting Hero’s Downfall you give players a tool with which they can fight back.

Casual Players would LOVE to see Hero’s Downfall reprinted because since many players run more than one deck they likely need to have multiple copies of this card.  Even now, with it being  fairly recently printed in a large set and being out of Standard and not played much in Modern, it is a $2.50  card in Canada at Three Kings Loot.  That is easily $10-12 dollars for a single target removal spell that you keep in your deck as a form of insurance policy to deal with tricky targets, but there is no reason it couldn’t be much cheaper.

Now, IF Hero’s Downfall was spoiled as part of Amonkhet or Hour of Devastation would that warp the world of Magic?  Likely not.  Perhaps Mardu Vehicles could adopt playing some number of these instead of Unlicensed Disintegration, but is that really an upgrade?  I doubt it because the damage is useful in many instances.  4 Colour Saheeli doesn’t play Black meaning it doesn’t have access to it.  The Black/Green decks could use it as a way to help them interact with Vehicles, Gideon, and even Saheeli perhaps giving the deck a shot in the arm.  If other decks make use of it and shake up the Metagame then I won’t really complain in that instant either.  Modern couldn’t care less.  Casual Players would be all on board. Basically, it looks like there would be almost no negative consequences and players would get what they need: a way to interact profitably with some of the most powerful and difficult cards to play against.

The need for some sort of powerful, fairly costed removal that answers many of these new and very dangerous cards is obvious, of that there is no doubt.  Hero’s Downfall is already a card that exists and could very easily be adapted with new art and fit in virtually any set making it an ideal reprint option and a way to keep troublesome cards in check.  Is it the definitive answer?  No, but it would be a start in the right direction to help players have a tool to cope.  This mess with not having enough good answers is a long way from being over, but hopefully we can find a reprint of Hero’s Downfall sometime soon and give players another chance to settle the format.

Let me know what you think below.  Is Hero’s Downfall one of the answers we need to keep troublesome cards in check?  Is it going to break something?  IS there a better option that is just as fair?  Let me know what you think.

Thanks for stopping by for another Casual Encounter and be sure to stop again soon.

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

 

Casual Encounters: You Should be Playing These Cards

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There are all sorts of players out there in the Magic community and they are all looking at cards a little differently.  With so many cards, formats, and people with different ends it can be hard to identify some things that really ought to be played, but often get overlooked.  Today I’m going to highlight a few cards that you may have overlooked and that really should be in your decks.

tamiyosjournal

Tamiyo’s Journal:  This is one of the cards that I’ve been trumpeting for months now because I think the card is extremely potent.  In a format where you have 40 life this is incredibly valuable because it guarantees you that all important source of card draw that you are looking for in your EDH deck. Those Clue tokens are invaluable to ensuring that you can out resource your opponent.  It is colourless, goes in everything, and acts, at worst, as a personal Howling Mine to give you access to a second card each turn.  If that is where this card stopped you would be ok.  However, when it just sits on your board and passively accrues you Clue Tokens for a couple of turns that you can sacrifice it becomes just like a Diabolic Tutor that you can use to find that perfect answer to the board.  This card, right there, is ideal and really ought to be played because it offers you considerable versatility while asking relatively little of you in the process. I agree, for five mana this has virtually no impact on the board and can’t save your bacon if you are dreadfully behind, but it is a great engine if you need to catch up a little or start to pull ahead when you are at parity, but it isn’t done yet.

 

Tamiyo’s Journal is even more impactful now that Revolt is a mechanic that is available and relevant to play.  Any card that is looking to be triggered by Revolt works very nicely in conjunction with this card giving it even more value and increased incentive to be played.  A few such uses include Call for Unity that is an anthem of limited usefulness in many decks, but on a board state where Tamiyo’s Journal is on board and active it is a ridiculous proposition that essentially makes your creatures 100% unmanageable.  If having a huge Anthem isn’t really your thing, perhaps Aid from the Cowl is more like it to give you a source of unmatched graveyard recursion.  Aetherworks Marvel is another potent target that can be used to great effect with all those Clue tokens even if it doesn’t say Revolt on the card.

 

Now, Revolt is one way to make use of Tamiyo’s Journal, there are still a few other fun ways to have this interact with other cards.  The most obvious is by playing it in conjunction with Improvise cards because the Clue Tokens give you ways to power out scary things with ever increasing velocity.  Herald Anguish is the poster boy for creatures like this, but Whir of Invention seems like a close second to allow you to go and find something truly degenerate…at Instant speed.  Herald of Anguish also gets good fodder to use those Clues to eat away at your opponent’s board if you have too.  Inspiring Statuary seems like another fun option and a great way to just power out just all the craziest things you can dig up. As a final piece, Ghirapur Aethergrid allows you to weaponize all those Clues and use them to zap your opponent for literally next to no cost to you.

 

Essentially Tamiyo’s Journal is suitably flexible and synergistic that it can go in virtually every deck, but yet it isn’t as ubiquitous as it seems.  It costs a mere $0.59 on Three Kings Loot despite the multitude of applications and versatility that it is offered by including it in your lists. This really ought to be a card that you play and you will not regret it.   I would strongly suggest that you go back and have a second look and see if this card can’t offer your deck something and if it might be worth your while to add it to your list.

Statuary

Inspiring Statuary: the case for Inspiring Statuary is much more simple and direct. This doesn’t appear to be a mana rock, but at its worst that is all it is. However, in casual formats, where there are plenty of good artifacts to go around, this could be a much more substantial cost savings on your spells. When good equipment,  under utilized artifact creatures, and static artifacts that impact the board can be tapped for mana now you are cooking with gas. It really doesn’t take much to make this a really good card despite the fact it hasn’t migrated over yet.  I’d be looking to find a few of these and sock them away for when Statuary is a really big thing.

Diluvian Primordial

Primordial Cycle: One thing that I increasingly notice is that the player base for Magic has grown substantially since I rejoined the game back in 2012.  In that time there have been lots of really good cards printed that I take for granted and that many people have never seen before.  A prime example is the Primordial Cycle from Gatecrash.  Many people don’t really look back at Gatecrash as being much of a set to remember apart from some Shock land reprints.  However, the Primordial cycle is something that really ought to be looked at closely.  In a multiplayer game these 7 mana mana-hogs are devastating.  Sylvan Primordial has gotten itself banned because it was too darn good, but all the others are pretty wild too.  Read the cards carefully because the templating is perfect for a multiplayer EDH game.  I slammed two of these into my Sultai EDH deck (Black and Blue) and my opponents all sat in quiet discomfort as I played the game with THEIR resources.  They weren’t happy and the impact was huge.  Check these guys out and you won’t be disappointed.

Grave Betrayal

Grave Betrayal:  Another hugely expensive card, but one that can be super swingy and turn the tide in your favour quite easily.   Who doesn’t love killing your opponents creatures and then using them to KO  your opponent?  That sounds like fun to me. Now, at 7 mana it is essentially unplayable in 1 v1 formats but in multiplayer scenarios it is feasible. Can you envision the situation where you wrath away the full board of creatures and then getting them once they die?  Yes, that is the best case scenario but even spot removal or having things die in combat all triggers this as well making this reasonably impactful and quite scary. This isn’t for every deck, but when you can get this one to work for you it is very potent and well worth a look.

 

Well there we have some cards you should consider to help liven up your next casual game. Some of these are undervalued bulk Rares from recent sets, and some are from a few years ago and may be forgotten. However, these are all capable of having a pretty significant impact on the game and worth a further examination. Besides, who doesn’t like having the newest tech to help liven up the game?  Let me know in the comments below if there is something I missed or if there is a card that you love to slam in your decks. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.

 

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

Casual Encounters – Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oh MY!

Happy Saint Patrick’s day everyone!  I hope everyone is enjoying a little touch of the Irish and enjoying your new MM2017 packs as the set has been now officially launched. By the time you read this St Patty’s Day will have come and gone once again, but in the spirit of all things green and mythical like our friend the Leprechaun, I have compiled my list top 10 green creatures.  There was once upon a time where Green was known only for casting enormous green creatures and that’s it, but over time Green has changed and become a good deal more “lean”.  By that I mean now many of its best creatures are mana efficient creatures with potent abilities.  However, today’s list tries to mix in a little bit of the super efficient creatures green can offer along with some of the traditional green beef that we all know and love. Let’s have a look.

Thragtusk

Honourable Mention:  Thragtusk.  This funky Green beast defined Standard for much of its duration in the format and it was heavily played in virtually any deck that could make Green mana.  This just does everything you want in a creature because it gives you back 5 life, is a 5/3 and not to be trifled with, and when it leaves the battlefield it leaves behind a baby 3/3 beast.  There are very few other creatures that are just so predicated on getting value as this card.  Even the flavor text is pretty epic and well worth the three seconds to read it.  Good ol’ Thragtusk gets an honourable mention and could have very easily been on this list.  Now on to the good stuff.

Tarmogoyf

 

10- Tarmogoyf – This makes the list because even a casual player such as myself can appreciate the raw power of this 2 drop.  The fact that this can easily be a 3/4, a 4/5 , or maybe even bigger for a mere 2 mana is very ridiculous.  The lack of any other ability is a saving grace in Casual formats where playing a 4/5 may not get the job done because you may have 40 life, or multiple opponents, or loads of readily available removal.  However, competitively this is a house and is pretty much as ubiquitous as decks can be in non-rotating formats.  There is also a bit of a mystique around the card because it seems to be suitably elusive to find and thus has retained a pretty high price on the secondary market despite having been reprinted in each of the last three Modern Masters sets.  The on camera draft from the top 8 with Pascal Maynard opening up a foil Tarmogoyf and value drafting it at GP Vegas in 2015 has further led to the mystique around this card. It might be related to the unicorn.

Wild Nacatl

9- Wild Nacatl- Nacatl  is one of those cards that if you can get this thing to be at 100% optimal it is just nuts. As a potential 3/3 for 1 mana it is a ridiculous rate and makes this kitty something pretty insane. In formats where you are playing with fetches and shocks then this is easily one of the most aggressive creatures going and can easily be online for Turn 2. It gets quickly outclassed but the rate and the sheer aggressive nature of the card makes this look pretty appealing at the one drop spot. It gets extra street cred for having been one of the cards banned and then to get unbanned in Modern and to make a splash in the format.

Scavenging Ooze

8- Scavenging Ooze- this is a tool box card that started in a Commander deck and has migrated to the competitive realm. It ticks so many boxes as a useful creature because it helps against graveyards, can help you stabilize your life total, and can become a threat to help you close out the game if left unchecked. All this on a creature that is a 2/2 for two mana that can fit in any deck playing green. Really, what isn’t to love?

Finks

7- Kitchen Finks- apart from being a very useful little critter because of the fact that it can be played to help get you back in the game and is a useful value engine, the fact that this easily fits into a number of abusable infinite life combos helps this guy make the list.  The fact that I was super happy to see this guy in a Cube perhaps tells you a thing about the relative  utility this card affords.  It may not be flashy but it is very reliable and a solid  role player that I feel very comfortable with having on the list.  Besides, the art is super cute and everyone loves good art.

GaeasLiege

6-Gaea’s Liege- this is a throwback and you may be excused if aren’t familiar with this card.  Take a moment a look it up on Gatherer. I’ll wait.  Got it? Excellent. This card was a staple in my 72 card G/W deck I played back in 1996 and was my personal pet card. The fact that this just would wreck the mana base of an unsuspecting deck was just so much fun.  Does it get badly outclassed by creatures in 2017?  Absolutely, but at the time this was a house, denied your opposition of land, AND could smash face.  It was a perfect triple threat.

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Casual Encounters- Little Fish, Big Pond: Why I am a forgotten PucaTrade User

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I wanted to take a minute and explore something a little different today.  In 2017 there are lots of options available to a player who is looking to pick up cards online.  TCGplayer.com. Starcity Games. Ebay. Facebook Groups. Twitter.  Really, there are so many places to get cards without leaving your home that it is amazing.  I mean, just tonight I ordered a bunch of cards from one of my favorite online vendors for a couple of EDH decks without ever leaving my computer desk.  If you had told me that 10 years ago I think I would have scoffed.

 

Well, there is another platform that has fallen slightly on hard times and that’s Pucatrade.  For those who are not fully aware Pucatrade is an online trading platform that allows you to trade cards to another player in exchange for Puca Points, a fictional currency created by Pucatrade.  One of the barriers to having people trade is always finding cards of relative equal value that each party wants.  Pucatrade is supposed to eliminate that by trading my points for your Card, and then you can use the points to get the card(s) that you want.  It is a genius system and for a period of time was a fantastic way to move cards.

 

The problem was that this fictional currency was supposed to value 1 pucapoint (hereafter shortened to pp) at roughly 1 penny.  However, since Pucatrade gave each new user the opportunity to start their account off with several hundred pp’s means that the internal economy of Pucatrade was creating this currency from nothing and adding more and more points causing an inflationary effect that had people in the game very concerned.  The relative value of the pp dropped, the flow of cards dropped significantly, and the Puca world ground to a screeching halt.

 

Pucatrade took a number of steps to try and correct this imbalance by creating ways to help sink the number of points in the system by removing some through a number of initiatives.  The have monthly sweepstakes, they have a form of guarantee fee, and they made use of promoted trades to legitimize bonuses. They also tried new ways to connect their users like using Discord, an online chat forum that allows players to connect like never before.  These new systems were supposed to help make trading easier and to help make Pucatrade a force once again.

 

Well, they succeeded in revitalizing Pucatrade and it is once again seeing cards flow all over the world. However, the system has changed.  While Puca was busy establishing itself again and draining out points, Discord allowed traders to connect and a reciprocal trade system facilitated through Pucatrade started to take root.  This means people went back to the old way of trading cards for cards and were using Pucatrade to connect.  There was a reduced emphasis on points and instead people traded cards for cards.  Let me say that I have no issue with reciprocal trading.  Frankly, it makes sense and using Puca as a platform to facilitate this only makes sense.  Unless you are a small player without a huge card base and then you have nothing to reciprocate, meaning you get cut out of the system.  We are gradually seeing a move back to the use of more points as the basis for trades, but there are still plenty of users who will only take reciprocal trades.  I am an active user of Pucatrade and can see such discussions on Discord and find the process frustrating for a number of reasons.

 

The number one reason I find the whole system frustrating is that I have chosen to use Pucatrade to move cards of much lower value and to amass points in the hopes of landing more expensive cards to use in my decks.  I mean, that is the dream isn’t it?  If you could move X number of lower value cards and package them up to get enough for a more expensive rare or mythic, would you do it?  The answer is likely yes.  As a smaller play who plays Magic on a very tight budget I can only acquire so many cards in a month.  As a casual player who pays for much of his cards by accumulating Amazon credit through the completion of Online Surveys I usually find myself picking packs of sealed product and popping them. This means I likely only have 1 or 2 of any given rare, but I have plenty of commons and uncommons I am prepared to trade and thus I scour Pucatrade for players looking for stray commons/uncommons and amassing my points slowly over time.

 

At this point, people ask me why do I use Pucatrade at all if I am trading cards with such small values?  It is true. I take a loss on each transaction I make because I usually send cards that are worth well south of a dollar.  I can’t deny this.  However, I look at it this way: these commons and uncommons are already a sunk cost and if I don’t move them then they will continue to sit in a box and collect dust until some day I have to sell them for bulk where I will get $3/1000 .  I would rather take my chances and move them for somewhat more, particularly if I can save the value gained in something like Pucapoints and then use those points for something more worthwhile.  So, yes I take a loss, but they are a loss in the first place, so I may as well move them in order to get SOMETHING I can use back.  I do limit the number of trades I make in a week so as to not cripple my tight budget, but I do make regular trades.

 

Well, at this point, even with Discord and routinely engaging in some of the conversations I find that there are very few people interested in sending me cards because I can’t reciprocate.  I have managed to amass a rather high amount of pp’s and it would seem as if the points aren’t enough to entice other players to trade.  Is it MY fault that I don’t have that chase Modern card they are looking for?  No.  So, the only collateral I have is my points and that isn’t enough. That is going to be an issue at some point down the road, but right now it is something that I can still work around.

 

Basically, as much as it sucks to not receive cards via trade because of the changing nature of Pucatrade, it has allowed me to amass a fairly high number of points.  I know I take a hit on every transaction, but to have close to 4000 points (which is big if you consider I make smaller trades) I have clearly made a lot of trades and not had too many points get drained out of my account.  That situation suits me just fine for the moment because I can continue to build up my points with an eye towards getting some cards that I do want to use.  However, when I decide that I need to start using my points, if it is difficult to essentially turn my points into cards,  I will be disappointed.

 

Which leads me to the final conclusion that I can derive from these observations.  I am an active user on Pucatrade and know that the system does indeed work.  However, while I’m active, I am very much a small user both in volume of points and trades made.  While I am on Discord, I can’t reciprocate very often and need to rely on my points if I want to get anything and thus usually have little to offer to any discussion on the platform where people are soliciting particular things.  I have not seen anything apart from one single trade in well over 6 months despite my regular, but admittedly small, activity.  I can only conclude that I am a forgotten user of Pucatrade.  No one picks up my points, I can’t reciprocate much of anything, and the system only works in largely one direction and that is outgoing.

 

So, my words are as follows to those people who are using Pucatrade: Please don’t forget the little guys.  We are crucial to the system because it is our continued participation and investment into the system that will help give the system greater legitimacy.  Right now, people are still spooked by the prospect of having Pucatrade implode, but by having a broad and diverse user base then the system can continue to flourish and regain the trust of the countless users who have walked away from the platform.  Besides, you WANT me ( and casual players like me) in the system because, as many of the finance podcasts point out, many of the cards that casual players such as myself open up rarely end up in the market because I toss them in a box and sit on them for “later”.  However, if I can find a reasonable way to move that fancy, competitively geared card I opened up in my random pack then the bigger players will have a few more copies out there in the “wild” to help mitigate against issues of supply. Do not discount the power of a casual player because it is exactly the casual crowd that will decide to keep opening up packs of older stuff because that is what we decided we wanted to open.  In a few months, Amonkhet will be all the rage, but where then will competitive players look to find Verdurous Gearhulk?  Liliana the Last Hope? Torrential Gearhulk?  You will be asking casual players to open up their boxes and to put their cards on the market.  If Pucatrade is once again going to be a viable option and be easy to use and ensure people get cards back in return then perhaps larger, more vested players need to make a point of taking care of the little guys.  Zero our accounts, regardless if we are promoting the trade or not, because if we want points again and can see that the system works then we are more apt to open up our boxes stashed in our closets and find a few extra copies of what splashy card you are looking for. However, if the system continues to only address the needs of the enfranchised, competitive player that is prepared to sink larger sums of money into the game then casual players will walk away, take their cards with them, and find other ways to use their cards.  It is in the interest on everyone to make sure that everyone who is active and using Pucatrade gets some share of their wants or else the system starts to fall apart.

 

Thanks very much for bearing with me I as I worked through something decidedly heavier and less enjoyable.  I love to play Magic and part of the joy of the game is the acquisition of that perfect card for your deck.  Pucatrade used to be a fabulous way to help everyone make that challenge more attainable and I would like to see for it to return to some of its former glory.  Just knowing that I COULD get a card or two through the system would be amazing and make the process of building my decks much easier.  However, Pucatrade has a long way to go to regain some of that past success and in the meantime players are going to find other ways to get their cards.

 

Thanks for stopping by for another Casual Encounter. If you have thoughts or ideas, by all means leave a comment down below or find me on Twitter @bgray8791.  Take care and don’t forget to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.

 

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791